Spanish media pays tribute to World Cup winners

Spain's World Cup final victory against the Netherlands dominated the country's press today, with newspapers paying tribute to the first Spanish team to claim football's most prestigious trophy.

Under the front page headline "World champions," El Pais described the 1-0 win in South Africa on Sunday as "an ode to happiness."

The paper said Spain "gave an injection of universality, showed its style of football despite those who sneer at it, after an emotional, uncomfortable game against a coarse Netherlands. It succumbed to a rival that was well-versed in the art of the unpredictable, as well being intoxicating and mature."

The Netherlands' physical approach — which saw the team receive nine yellow cards and have one player sent off — was heavily criticized by the Spanish press.

Sports daily Marca attacked "Netherlands' intimidating plan".

"The violence restricted Spain's usual play but not enough to negate its superiority," the paper continued.

The winning goal came with four minutes of extra time remaining, as Andres Iniesta controlled a pass from Cesc Fabregas and blasted the ball past the goalkeeper.

"It was poetic justice because football won and football, that marvelous universal folklore, is Iniesta," said El Mundo. "The little wizard had to be the one who in minute 116 put the nail in the coffin of the 11 most quarrelsome Dutchmen in history."

Iniesta plays for Barcelona, the club that forms the spine of the Spanish team, along with players such as Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Eight Barcelona players were in the World Cup-winning squad.

Pro-Barcelona daily Mundo Deportivo pointed out that "yesterday there were eight privileged ones who joined the select group that can presume to have achieved the greatest honor a sportsman can manage: to be the best on the planet."

Some reports saw the national team as an example to follow for a country that has severe economic problems.

"The Spanish team is a metaphor for what Spain can aspire to be, as long as we are prepared to apply the same criteria that have been the basis for the successes of the national team," said ABC.

"It would be good if the collective enthusiasm for the team became a stimulus for Spanish society in the face of the current problems and even that it became the motive to demand that our country should resemble and work like this group of young men."